John Ruskin: The Stones of Venice - "Venetian Index" - M

 



89 Malipiero, Palazzo

on the Campo St. M. Formosa, facing the canal at its extremity.
A very beautiful example of the Byzantine Renaissance. Note the management of colour in its inlaid balconies.

See also Palazzo Malipiero for the current state of the building

 

90 Manfrini, Palazzo

The architecture is of no interest; and as it is in contemplation to allow the collection of pictures to be sold, I shall take no note of them. But, even if they should remain, there are few of the churches in Venice where the traveller had not better spend his time than in this gallery; as, with the exception of Titian's "Entombment," one or two Giorgiones, and the little John Bellini (St. Jerome), the pictures are all of a kind which may be seen elsewhere.

See also Palazzo Manfrini for the current state of the building

 

91 Manzoni, Palazzo

on the Grand Canal, near the Church of the Carita.
A perfect and very rich example of Byzantine Renaissance; its warm yellow marbles are magnificent.

See also Palazzo Manzoni for the current state of the building

 

92 Marcilian, Church of St.

Said to contain a Titian, "Tobit and the Angel:" otherwise of no importance.

 

95 Mater Domini, Church of Sta. Maria.

It contains two important pictures: one over the second altar on the right, "St. Christina," by Vincenzo Catena, a very lovely example of the Venetian religious school; and over the north transept door, the "Finding of the Cross," by Tintoret, a carefully painted and attractive picture, but by no means a good specimen of the master, as far as regards power of conception. He does not seem to have entered into his subject. There is no wonder, no rapture, no entire devotion in any of the figures. There are only interested and pleased in a mild way; and the kneeling woman who hands the nails to a man stooping forward to receive them on the right hand, does so with the air of a person saying, "You had better take care of them; they may be wanted another time." This general coldness in expression is much increased by the presence of several figures on the right and left, introduced for the sake of portraiture merely; and the reality, as well as the feeling, of the scene is destroyed by our seeing one of the youngest and weakest of the women with a huge cross lying across her knees, and whole weight of it resting upon her. As might have been expected, where the conception is so languid, the execution is little delighted in: it is throughout steady and powerful, but in no place affectionate, and in no place impetuous. If Tintoret had always painted in this way, he would have sunk into a mere mechanist. It is, however, a genuine and tolerably well preserved specimen, and its female figures are exceedingly graceful; that of St. Helena very queenly, though by no means agreeable in feature. Among the male portraits on the left there is one different from the usual types which occur either in Venetian paintings or Venetian populace; it is carefully painted, and more like a Scotch Presbyterian minister than a Greek. The background is chiefly composed or architecture, white , remarkably noticed as one of the unfortunate results of the Renaissance teaching at this period. Had Tintoret backed his Empress Helena with Byzantine architecture, the picture might have been one of the most gorgeous he ever painted.

 

96 Mater Domini, Campo di Sta. Maria

A most interesting little piazza, surrounded by early Gothic houses, once of singular beauty: the arcade at its extremity, of fourth-order windows, drawn in my folio work, is one of the earliest and loveliest of its kind in Venice: and in the houses at the side is a group of second-order windows with their intermediate crosses, all complete, and well worth careful examination.

 

97 Michele in Isola, Church of St.

On the island between Venice and Murano.
The little Cappella Emiliana at the side of it has been much admired, but it would be difficult to find a building more feelingless or ridiculous. It is more like a German summer-house, r angle turret, than a chapel, and may be briefly described as a bee-hive set on a low hexagonal tower, with dashes of stonework about its windows like the flourishes of an idle penman.
The cloister of this church is pretty; and the attached cemetery is work entering, for the sake of feeling the strangeness of the quiet sleeping ground in the midst of the sea.

 

98 Minelli, Palazzo

It has a spiral external staircase, very picturesque, but of the fifteenth century, without merit.

See also Palazzo Contarini dal Bovolo for the current state of the building

 

99 Miracoli, Church Sta Maria Dei

In the Corte del Maltese, at St. Paternian.
The most interesting and finished example in Venice of the Byzantine Renaissance, and one of the most important in Italy of the cinque-cento style. All its sculptures should be examined with great care, as the best possible examples of a bad style. Observe, for instance, that in spite of the beautiful work on the square pillars which support the gallery at the west end, they have no more architectural effect than two wooden posts. The same kind of failure in boldness of purpose exists throughout; and the building is, in fact, rather a small museum of unmeaning, though refined sculpture, than a piece of architecture.
Its grotesques are admirable examples of the base Raphaelesque design examined above, III. 135. Note especially the children's heads tied up by the hair, in the lateral sculptures at the top of the altar steps. A rude workman, who could hardly have carved the head at all, might have been allowed this or any other mode of expressing discontent with his own doings: but the man who could carve a child's head so perfectly must have been wanting in all human feeling, to cut it off, and tie it by the hair to a vine leaf. Observe, in the Ducal Palace, though far ruder in skill, the heads always emerge from the leaves, they are never tied to them.

 

100 Misericordia, Church of

The church itself is nothing, and contains nothing worth the traveller's time; but the Albergo de' Confratelli della Misericordia at its side is a very interesting and beautiful relic of the Gothic Renaissance. Lazari says, "del secolo xiv.;" but I believe it to be later. Its traceries are very curious and rich, and the sculpture of its capitals very fine for the late time. Close to it, on the right-hand side of the canal, which is crossed by the wooden bridge, is one of the richest Gothic doors in Venice, remarkable for the appearance of antiquity in the general design ad stiffness of its figures, though it bears its date, 1505. Its extravagant crockets are almost the only features which, but for this written date, would at first have confessed its lateness; but, on examination, the figures will be found as bad and spiritless as they are apparently archaic, and completely exhibiting the Renaissance palsy of imagination.
The general effect is, however, excellent, the whole arrangement having been borrowed from earlier work.
The action of the statue of the Madonna, who extends her robe to shelter a group of diminutive figures, representative of the Society for whose house the sculpture was executed, may be also seen in most of the later Venetian figures of the Virgin which occupy similar situations. The image of Christ is placed in a medallion on her breast, thus fully, though conventionally, expressing the idea of self-support which is so often partially indicated by the great religious painters in their representations of the infant Jesus.

 

101 Moise, Church of St.

Notable as one of the basest examples of the basest school of the Renaissance. It contains one important picture, namely, "Christ Washing the Disciples' Feet," by Tintoret; on the left side of the chapel, north of the choir. This picture has been originally dark, is now much faded, - in parts, I believe, altogether destroyed, - and is hung in the worst light of a chapel, where, on a sunny day at noon, one could not easily read without a candle. I cannot, therefore, give much information respecting it; but it is certainly one of the least successful of the painter's works, and both careless and unsatisfactory in its composition as well as its colour. One circumstance is noticeable, as in a considerable degree detracting from the interest of most of Tintoret's representations of our Saviour with His disciples. He never loses sight of the fact that all were poor, and the latter ignorant; and while he never paints a senator or a saint, once thoroughly canonized, except as a gentleman, he is very careful to paint the Apostles, in their living intercourse with the Saviour, in such a manner that the spectator may see in an instant, as the Pharisee did of old, that they were unlearned and ignorant men; and, whenever we find them in a room, it is always such a one as would be inhabited by the lower classes. There seems some violation of this practice in the dais, of flight of steps, at the top of which the Saviour is placed in the present picture; but we are quickly reminded that the guests? chamber or upper room ready prepared was not likely to have been in a palace, by the humble furniture upon the floor, consisting of a tub with a copper saucepan in it, a coffee-pot, and a pair of bellows, curiously associated with a symbolic cup with a wafer, which, however, is in an injured part of the canvas, and may have been added by the priests. I am totally unable to state what the background of the picture is or has been; and the only point farther to be noted about it is the solemnity, which, in spite of the familiar and homely circumstances above noticed, the painter has given to the scene, by placing the Saviour, in the act of washing the feet of Peter, at the top of a circle of steps, on which the other Apostles kneel in adoration and astonishment.

 

102 Morosini, Palazzo

near the Ponte dell' Ospedaletto, at San Giovanni e Paolo.
Outside it is not interesting, though the gateway shows remains of brickwork of the thirteenth century. Its interior court is singularly beautiful; the staircase of early fourteenth century Gothic has originally been superb, and the window in the angle above is the most perfect that I know in Venice of the kind; the lightly sculptured coronet is exquisitely introduced at the top of its spiral shaft.
This palace still belongs to the Morosini family, to whose present representative, the Count Carlo Morosini, the reader is indebted for the note on the character of his ancestors.

See also Palazzo Morosini for the current state of the building

 
Jan-Christoph Rößler